Buyer of a crossover for the first time? Here’s why automakers are aggressively competing for your business
Buying a car for the first time can be overwhelming, especially if you’re shopping on a budget. Even if you narrowed your search to a specific body style, your choices are seemingly endless. Consider the crossover, arguably the most sought-after body style, especially for first-time buyers. Vehicles like the 2022 Honda CR-V vs 2022 Toyota RAV4 are extremely popular.
If you’re shopping for a new crossover, know that you’re in the majority. Automakers like Honda and Toyota know that securing your business from the start means potentially winning a customer for life. The goal is to keep you in the family for life, so as a first time buyer, know that you are in an incredibly advantageous position. Leveraging your first-time buyer status is essential, as this is a one-time deal.
We’re going to teach you some secrets on how to use your rookie status to your advantage. These days, new buyers have so many shopping tools at their fingertips. Not only that, but manufacturers often run promotions or offer discounts to entice newbies. You may already be overwhelmed or wary of the learning curve, but luckily, sometimes partnering with a forward-thinking dealership is enough.
Secret Tip #1: Do Your Homework
It is essential to arm yourself with the right information before going ahead with the purchase of a new car. We call this the research stage. For this step, you just need a few hours of free time and an internet connection. Your goal is to limit your options to two or three models. Ideally, you can access a specific trim level. If you’re scratching your head wondering, “What’s a trim level?” just stay with us.
First, summarize what you know. Typically, you know what body style you want – in this case it’s a crossover – and you have a rough idea of your budget. For this example, we’ll assume you want a mid-size model and your budget cap is $35,000. If you search for a list of mid-size SUVs/crossovers, Google will quickly return a series of mind-numbing options. We therefore suggest a different method to narrow down your list of potential winners.
Within the complex juggernaut that is the automotive industry, there are surprisingly few reputable review sites. We suggest you choose one (two at most) and focus your research there. Our favorites are Car and Driver, MotorTrend and Kelley Blue Book. All three of these sites are reputable and completely objective, so the information you collect is not tainted by paid recommendations.
Using the example of the Honda CR-V versus the Toyota RAV4, a quick look at Car and Driver’s review for each (CR-V versus RAV4) reveals that the CR-V is rated higher. The same goes with MotorTrend (CR-V vs RAV4). As you scroll through the details, you’ll see that each site breaks down their reasoning in a consistent way, which makes side-by-side comparisons much easier. Finally, if you’re back to square one, read a few “best of” articles for trends. You’ll start to see the same models listed over and over again, which is a good indication of quality and value.
Secret tip #2: Choose the right topping
Once you’ve narrowed down your choices to one or two vehicles, it’s time to dig deeper. You can do this in two ways: visit the manufacturer’s website or go to your local dealer. You’ll save time if you do a little research beforehand, so we suggest going online first. Automakers release tons of details about every vehicle in their lineups, so you’ll be able to browse everything from colors to options.
The manufacturer’s website also includes a handy build tool that lets you specify different configurations. That’s where trim levels come in. For example, let’s say you’re sold on a 2022 Honda CR-V, which comes in five different versions. A build is nothing more than a series of vehicle configurations with popular equipment already grouped together. Most vehicles, like the CR-V, include around four to six versions.
Trims greatly simplify the building process as they eliminate the need to build your vehicle from an a la carte menu of features. Today’s new crossovers include hundreds of comfort, convenience and luxury features. With so many options, the number of possible configurations is almost limitless. Dealerships can’t stock thousands of vehicles, so automakers bundle the most sought-after features into trim levels. They start with a base model, which is the cheapest, and move up to a premium version (i.e. a fully loaded version).
The CR-V includes base LX, Special Edition, EX, EX-L, and Touring trims, priced between $20,000 and $30,000. Click on the “compare” page and you will see a graph displaying a side-by-side comparison. It’s a shortcut to determining which builds offer the gear you want, and an easy way to weed out those that don’t. We recommend spending some time on this page to decide which topping fits your budget and wish list.
Secret Tip #3: Closing the Deal
The last but most important step is to choose your dealer carefully. Most dealerships post their inventory online so you can do some preliminary shopping from home. You should check for special offers or discounts for the model you want, so you are prepared to negotiate the best price at the time of purchase. Be aware that reputable dealerships are eager to help you save, so they’ll likely disclose any discounts without you having to ask.
It is also the era of the metaverse, a reality that is not lost on automotive retailers. Dealerships are rapidly creating online shopping tools to entice younger shoppers, so if you’re someone who prefers doing business virtually, look to conveniences like online finance apps and live chats to get ahead even before to enter the showroom. Nowadays, it is possible to make 80 to 90% of your purchase virtually.
Remember that dealerships sell cars all day, so it’s important to identify yourself as a first-time buyer. Don’t apologize if it takes you longer to figure out all the intricacies of a car purchase. Consider pulling out if the dealership seems impatient or rushes you through paperwork. Buying a vehicle is a big investment, so it’s essential to know exactly what you’re agreeing to on the contract before finalizing the transaction.
Buyers of new vehicles can choose to lease or obtain a traditional loan. There are benefits for each, so add it to your pre-purchase research list. Leases tend to offer lower monthly payments, but you won’t own your car at the end of your lease. Think of a lease as a long-term car rental. Conversely, financing your crossover with a loan means you will own it at the end of the term, but your monthly payment will likely increase slightly.
Trust your dealer
Many grizzled car-buying veterans might tell you to beware of dealerships, but a lot has changed in recent years. Today’s automotive retailers are more customer-centric than ever. The goal is to earn your business for life, and because they want you to stick with the brand, they’ll go the extra mile to make sure you’re completely satisfied with your shopping experience.
If you feel high pressure or hesitation at any time, you can always walk away, but reputable dealers don’t treat their business that way. You are the most desirable customer for a new car dealership as a first-time buyer. If they get it right and back you up with high levels of support and service, you won’t want to shop anywhere else. It’s a cliché, but this scenario is a win-win for everyone.
It is possible to shop and buy with confidence, even if it is the first time. All it takes is a little time and effort beforehand. So choose carefully, but above all, enjoy your first new crossover!